NASA goes shopping and wants lunar soil. Although it may be surprising, the US space agency has launched a announcement Targeted at private companies that you will pay to supply rocks and regolith (the layer of materials on the surface) from the Earth’s satellite.

This initiative, which will last for the next four years, has been presented as one more advance in the Artemisa program, whose objective is take “the first woman and the next man” to the moon in 2024 – specifically to the South Pole – and pave the way for a future colonization of Mars.

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With this project, atypical for involving private companies, the space agency takes a firm step towards the consolidation of the extraterrestrial mining for commercial purposes. In addition, the call is not only open to US companies, but from anywhere on the planet, and NASA will be able to choose several winners.

“Leveraging the business holding as part of Artemis will enhance our ability to return to the Moon safely sustainable, innovative and affordable“, he assures in his blog the agency administrator, Jim Bridenstine.

The payment, an unknown

Regarding the procedure, the selected companies must collect “a small amount of rocks and lunar ‘dirt’ from any point on the surface “of the satellite and provide images of the time of collection and of the material obtained, together with data from the place of extraction. Likewise, the winning company must transfer ownership of these elements to NASA, which will become its sole owner.

As for the payment, the space agency still has not specified how much it will amount, but how will you do it. 10% of the remuneration will be produced at the time the project is awarded, another 10% will be paid simultaneously to the launch and the remaining 80% will be paid after the successful completion of the mission.

“Time to establish regulations”

“NASA is buying lunar soil from a commercial supplier! It’s the moment of establishing the regulations to extract and commercialize space resources “, has published on his Twitter account Bridenstine, where he has shared a link to the call.

Regarding the regulation of extraterrestrial mining, the US approved in 2015 a controversial law that recognized the right of its citizens to be the owners of the materials from celestial bodies that they would exploit in the future. Along these lines, last April, a executive order The Trump administration called for the promotion of international support for recovery and use of space resources.

This initiative, Bridenstine considers, represents a “critical step forward”, so it guarantees maximum “transparency” in the process. “We are developing all these practices to promote a new era of exploration and discovery that will benefit all of humanity,” he said.

The announcement has been very well received by the Commercial Federation of Space Flights, which on Twitter has applauded NASA’s decision to buy resources from the satellite from commercial companies as another step towards “a sustainable return to the Moon”. “Thank you, Jim Bridenstine, for your efforts to expand America’s leadership in the space with innovative business capabilities,” they commented.